17 January 2022

Birthdays Of Note Occurring On Three Consecutive Days Are Noted

Ali and King

Today marks the third of hugely significant birthdays in three days. Muhammad Ali was born on this day eighty years ago. Yesterday marked the 106th anniversary of my father’s birth and of course the day before was the actual birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. though it is celebrated today as this is a Monday. (I recall holidays being celebrated on a specific day each year and not shuffled over to the nearest Monday. Memorial Day used to always be on May 30th without regard to day of week. Veteran’s Day still always gets November 11th, largely because of it’s origins as Armistice Day which commemorated the end of World War I.) 
But I meant to discuss the three aforementioned men and not get lost in a digression on holidays.

Dr. King was someone who I — strange as this might sound — took for granted when he was alive. This can probably be attributed to the fact that I was a mere lad (still only fourteen when he was killed). It was akin to Willie Mays who patrolled centerfield for my beloved Giants. He was already a legend of the game and I didn’t fully appreciate his greatness. I’ve grown to appreciate both Dr. King and Mays much more as an adult. Yes, of course in different ways. Being a baseball champion is not on the same plane as being Civil Rights champion. King is today an icon and sadly, much of his legacy and teachings have been lost to most of the people who "celebrate" his birthday. If he were saying today what he did in the Sixties, he would be reviled by the right, moderates and even some of the left. He was a progressive and would be regarded a such today. He was unequivocal about non-violence and equal justice. He'd have been appalled at today's political scene and shocked at the rightward swing of the Republican Party.

My father in the army
I suppose in some respects I at times also took my father for granted. Much of this is because he was — figuratively speaking — always there. A constant, reliable figure. Kind, thoughtful and so damn much fun. He had the one indispensable quality required of a parent — an unrequited love for his children. That came through in his parenting. Since his death in 2008, I’ve recognized some of his failings. Being human he had his share. But this has created a fuller picture of the man and oddly, has done more to make him a lovable and sympathetic figure. I miss him still and quote him constantly, invariably in his Finnish accent. What a grand soul, beloved by all who knew him.

Ali was not someone who I ever took for granted — that is once I came to truly appreciate his greatness which I did when he bravely stood up to the draft. He had no quarrel with those Viet Cong — nor did, in actuality — any of us. Since he was forced into boxing exile, Ali has been my ultimate hero. He was not only the greatest in the ring, but he was a brave political symbol. Even more that that he was the most colorful and endlessly fascinating of characters. Larger than life is the cliche that comes to mind. The day I met him, told him what he meant to me and shook his hand is one of the most memorable of my life.

I here note that a wonderfully disproportionate number of my heroes are African American. For example: Ali, King, Mays, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Fred Hampton, James Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, Richard Pryor, Jimi Hendrix.

Sadly this writing reminds me of the current U.S. Senate’s failure to pass voting rights legislation and to end the filibuster. This at the same time that state legislatures are passing restricting voting strictures that are clearly aimed at Black voters. At the same time there are more attempts at gerrymandering by the same bodies, which again are designed to curb the influence of Black voters. We’ve come so far since Dr. King’s day at the same time we’ve barely moved an inch. 

I urge people to avoid cynicism and try to get others registered and encourage and help them vote. See such organizations as: Rock the Vote, When We All Vote, Election Protection, Brennan Center for Justice and the League of Women Voters.  Fight voter suppression!

I end this post with an extreme rarity, a plug. Ninety-nine per cent of all requests I get to mention this, or write about that or extoll this and that go immediately in the trash. Here is one of the one percent (so to speak). I refer my darling readers to, Support Black-Owned Businesses: 181 Places to Start Online. This article features links to the businesses with many more mentioned in the comment section. Check it out. 

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